Faughanvale parishioners’ nine-month exile from their parish church has finally come to an end following the completion of a major restoration project to repair damage caused during last August’s flooding in the North West.
St Canice’s Church – which was one of many properties in Eglinton affected by the downpour – was re-dedicated on Friday evening at a Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication led by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, and the Rector of Faughanvale Parish, Rev Canon Paul Hoey.
Among those in the congregation were people who had helped redesign and rebuild the church. During the service, the Churchwardens presented the Bishop with a list of gifts and invited him to dedicate them to the service of God, along with a new place for prayer in the vestry.
As the choir sang ‘We love the place, O God’, Bishop Good and Canon Hoey processed to the baptismal font, the pulpit and then the communion table, and recited prayers which symbolised the dedication of the whole of the church. The new organ was also dedicated, during Friday’s service.
One of the main surprises of the evening came when Canon Hoey left the front of the church and climbed up to the gallery to play the new instrument. Another came when one of his predecessors as Rector of Faughanvale, Rev Canon Charles Leeke, who had served in the parish from 1986 to 1997, rose to deliver the Old Testament reading.
Bishop Good told the congregation that ‘continuity and surprise’ would be the theme of his sermon for the service “because I think that’s what this building is about”.
The Bishop thanked Faughanvale parishioners for their presence at the Service, and for their faithful attendance during the temporary relocation to the village school. He recalled the events of August 22nd, last year, when a violent downpour brought flooding to various parts of counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Donegal. A number of families were still unable to return to flood-damaged homes in Eglinton and elsewhere, and Faughanvale Parish Hall was still in need of remedial work. “This Parish of St Canice bore the marks of flood damage as upsettingly as anywhere,” the Bishop said.
In his sermon, the Bishop referred to notable moments in St Canice’s history – its consecration in 1826, the addition of the sanctuary in 1899, and the completion of other significant works in 1991. “A church like this is a living place that evolves and adapts,” he said, “depending on the needs of the time, and tonight is part of that development.”
Bishop Good said he was delighted with the new-look church. “It is bright, clean, attractive and welcoming – it is fit for purpose – and I want to pay tribute to all those who have been involved: the Rector, the Select Vestry, the parishioners, the craftsmen, the designers, the trades people, the artists, all who had a part to play in bringing this to fruition. It is a job well done.
“There’s been a lot of heart-searching, decision-making and generosity but I commend you all for a noble and imaginative project brought to a a successful conclusion. There can be a great sense of achievement tonight.”
Bishop Good said St Canice was one of the “twelve intrepid friends” who accompanied St Columba when he left for Iona. “Columba and Canice accepted from God a missional task to make Christ known and to draw people to him. I want to suggest, tonight, that they did so with on the one hand continuity and on the other hand surprise. That’s the theme of my sermon tonight, ‘continuity and surprise’, because I think that’s what this building is about.
“First of all, continuity. The Christian faith is based on historical fact. It is based on the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ – fact. It is based on the coming in power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – fact. It is based on the scriptures of the old and new testaments, on the sacraments of baptism and of the Lord’s Supper – Holy Communion. It is based on the catholic or universal creeds. Columba and Canice knew that. That’s what they proclaimed. And we, today, like them, hold on to the unchanging, historical realities of faith. This building at its core reflects those essentials and continues in them,” the Bishop said. “But there also needs to be – in the presenting of the Gospel – something topical, relevant and maybe evening surprising….We should be a church with surprises – not stale, not dull, not unimaginative.”
Bishop Good said St Canice’s Church could continue in the faith but could also surprise people when they came by the vitality that its parishioners showed in their faith in Christ. “I want to suggest that this Parish of St Canice – in the tradition of Canice and Columba – is holding onto the continuity and the essentials of the Gospel – the faith, the worship – but also you have an element of surprise about you. And this building now conveys that: there’s something fresh, something creative, there’s something about meeting the needs of people in the community.
“Let me say this. In the way you responded to the floods there was an element of surprise in that - where people saw Jesus, not just you but other churches, too. There was something about seeing Jesus in the generosity you have shown. Dare I say there has even been something of Jesus seen in the Elvis Service? That was a surprise. There was something of a surprise – and seeing Jesus – in the ten pounds that everyone was given; that was good. Let’s see what happens to it.
“And there are going to be more surprises,” Bishop Good told parishioners, “because your Rector is made that way – he can’t help it. I do want to pay tribute to him because he is creative, he is imaginative. He does believe that God is a God of surprises. And let’s go with him, because we need to be creative and imaginative and fresh in ways of honouring Christ and drawing people, so that they, too, can see Jesus.”
There was more to come, Bishop Good told the congregation – the hall was “a major project” – “but the Lord is going ahead of you. There is continuity in this place; there will also be surprises. May god bless you.”